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Jewish World Review Jan. 9, 2004 / 15 Teves, 5764

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Howard Dean week?


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Somebody must have declared it Howard Dean week.

The Vermont doctor, ex-governor and everyone's current favorite to win the Democratic Party's 2004 presidential election, is plastered on the covers of Time and Newsweek, where, for all you conspiracy buffs out there, he also simultaneously appeared last summer.

The Dean camp probably won't appreciate the negative tone of Time and Newsweek's pieces, which spend most of their time looking critically at his personal and political horns, not his increasingly tarnished halo.

Time goes "Inside the Mind of Howard Dean." Sure, he has the most money, the best poll numbers, the best organization and most rabid followers — the Deanies. But he's increasingly getting disrespected by his own party members and the ever-surly media for being unlikable or too liberal to be elected.

Time's Karen Tumulty says it turns out that the closer you look at Dr. Dean's persona — he's an Ivy League rich kid born to an unabashed conservative Republican capitalist who grew up on Manhattan's Park Avenue — the more he looks just like someone more familiar to the sleeping electoral masses: George W. Bush.

Columnist/pundit Joe Klein doesn't help much. He thinks Dean already has the electricity and spit it takes to run for president, but not the polish. He, too, defines Dean as a populist — a liberal version of George Wallace, in fact, who wants to give power back to the people (the union people, the lawyer people, the Confederate-flag-decal-on-their-pickups people, etc.).


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Meanwhile, Newsweek's ace national political reporter, Pittsburgh's own Howard Fineman, delivers "Doubts About Dean."

Fineman reports that Dean's own supporters and Beltway insiders (especially Clinton loyalists who fear Dean could steal "their" party away from them) are increasingly troubled by their man's gaffes, his bluntness, his personal and financial secretiveness and his penchant for improvising and adjusting his views on important issues such as NAFTA and Social Security reform.

Dean, who most Americans probably think has something to do with Watergate or pork farm sausage, also is on the cover of The American Prospect, the world's dullest political think magazine, as well as the Economist, but neither magazine offers anything new or interesting.

Much better is the long profile of Dean in the New Yorker by Mark Singer. Singer, who treats Dean evenly and fairly, spends a lot of time digging around in Dean's college and post-college days, as well as his 1990s stint as Vermont governor.

It turns out Gov. Dean was a pragmatist who alternatively annoyed or pleased Republicans, Democrats, progressives, conservatives, environmentalists, developers, medical interests and gays.

Today, Singer says, Dean the White House wannabe is a genuine populist who appeals to the little people, not the big-check writers or traditional Democrat interest groups. And Singer suspects that Dean, unlike his weepy, tell-all competitors, has kept quiet about his elite background because he knows his resume is superficially but "strikingly similar to" — there's that man again — "George W. Bush's."

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald